Saturday, April 24, 2010

Twilight at the Bay

A few months back, Bob and Jim extended an invitation for us to join them for a portion of their trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. We thought about whether or not we could go for approximately 0.21 seconds before saying YES! Of course we can come! I had only been to Vancouver once for a conference, so I barely made it off UBC campus. Lee had been there a few years back for a family holiday and loved it. The last two months have really dragged on and on and on. We have flown a lot with Cora, but it has always been to Nebraska to see family. We love taking Cora back to Nebraska though. She always has so much fun! Cora and I went to Laramie once for a wedding, but outside of the actual wedding (which was beautiful!), that trip was a disaster. I have completely erased it from my memory. ;) So, as far as I can remember, this marks our first true family vacation that was taken via plane since the munchkin has graced us with her appearance. Really, there is no possible way it could have been a bad trip. :)

We arrived at Vancouver Intl at 9:30am on Friday. Jim rented a Cadillac, and we headed straight to Victoria. I was pretty pumped about getting to go to the island. The weather was beautiful, Cora was in a great mood, and we were out of Deadmonton! I have only rode a ferry once when we went to Nantucket for my Aunt's wedding. It was so much fun, but we didn't need to drive a car onto it. It was so cool being able to just drive right onto the boat. Cora was taking her afternoon nap, so she had no idea what was going on. We walked up to deck 6, found some seats, and just kind of took it all in. It looked quite windy and chilly outside, so we didn't venture out too quick. It didn't take long for Cora and me to get cabin fever, so we headed outside. Cora couldn't believe her eyes. She looked over the side to see the water, pointed at the gulls following us, breathed in the fresh ocean air, and kicked her legs in pure enjoyment.  Lee, Bob and Jim came out not too long after us. Cora did not want to go back inside. Lee and I stayed outside with her while she splashed through some little puddles and chased other little kids around. She was having so much fun. We pulled out some snacks of goldfish crackers and dried cranberries that Lee and I had packed before we left. Lee then showed her how we could lure in the gulls by tossing crackers for them. She almost had one take a goldfish right out of her hand. This child fears nothing. Not even the large beak of a gull. The ferry ride took about 1.5-2 hours. They had a small playground area inside that Cora played on when I tired out of chasing her around outside. What a good idea, BCFerries!
This picture was taken with Lee's cell phone on the deck of the ferry. Can you tell Cora is desperately trying to get down to go play some more?

We immediately headed straight to the Butchart Gardens upon arriving in Victoria. I had heard amazing things about these gardens. In fact, Lee and I had even thought about eloping here when we were first engaged. Let's just say, the pictures do these gardens no justice. They were breathtaking. One could easily spend a 3 day weekend just here. You were allowed to bring your dog even! What a concept. The locals are quite lucky to have such a gem at their fingertips.

Cora has been picking signs up quite quickly. More quickly than I thought. Lee and I have been buying bouquets of flowers here and there for the house. I have been trying to teach her how to smell the flowers. I also sign flower when I point at them. Her first trials at smelling flowers were licking the petals. She then learned that you just use your nose, not your mouth. I wasn't quite sure if she was actually smelling the flowers though. And, up until our drive to the gardens, she had never signed flower. Well, in one day, she did all of the above. I told her we were going to a beautiful garden to smell flowers. I signed flower, and she signed it right back to me!! Yes, you understand! As soon as we got to the gardens, this kid stopped and smelled every. single. flower. And she really smelled them. It was darling. The gardens were full of hyacinths, tulips, magnolias, and daffodils along with 100's of other species. I was completely in awe. If I didn't have such a brown thumb, being a horticulturist here would be a dream job. We had lunch at the cafeteria. The food was excellent, and it was almost as beautiful inside as it was outside.

Grandpa Bob, Cora and myself before heading in to eat lunch. Lee and Jim had some pizza behind our back, so they weren't near as hungry as the three of us were.

When you walk around the corner and see this garden, your breath is literally sucked out of your lungs. Mother Nature is beautiful, but this is just absurd. I guess this picture is being posted to my blog on a very appropriate day. Happy Earth Day Everyone!!

Just so everyone knows, Cora's head fits quite nicely through the bars to get a good whiff of the flowers going down the steps. It is amazing how many people she makes smile on a daily basis. She just lights up my heart.

Grandpa Bob wanted to hold Cora as well as keep her moving. He hoisted her up to his shoulders and started on his way. He quickly learned the when Cora wants something, Cora gets it. She was saying and signing "more" while pointing to the flowers. Lee let him know that even though she was high up, she still wanted to smell the flowers. So, here is picture proof. Cora officially has Grandpa Bob tightly wound around her little finger.

Cora and Grandpa Jim are on a mission to get to the flowers!

Cora rode a carousel for the first time in Victoria. She was a doll. Her face could easily have been mistaken for terror the first 5 rounds or so. It wasn't actually terror though. It was a look of "Mom! Do you see what I am riding? I can't believe this is happening to me! This is the best day I have ever had!" As soon as the ride was over, she clapped and then said, "More". My cheeks hurt from smiling. The best part though, was people that we didn't know actually came in to watch her ride the carousel. She was making friends left and right all day long.

A full afternoon at the gardens tuckered Cora's little body out. She took a good nap on Grandpa's shoulder while we walked around Victoria.

Photo ops with the Empress Hotel in the background. The hotel was beautiful.

Lee and I loved being down by the harbor. Confession: I am having a real hard time spelling it "harbor" instead of harbour". Oh NO! Canada is imprinting itself on me. HA! This is a great picture of Daddy and Cora by the boats. We watched float planes come in and drop people off and pick people up. Float planes look like a ton of fun!

This picture cracks me up because this was literally the 6th try. Every single time, Cora would turn away from the camera. She would not stay looking at the camera. We finally got it, but you can see Lee and I are laughing pretty hard. Cora was a little embarrassed because she knew we were laughing at her.

Victoria was such an amazing city. It was a small city of rare quality. The architecture of each building was unique to itself. The harbor came right up to the doorstop of the parliament building. It was incredibly green and lush. Lee and I immediately loved it there. We kept asking each other, "Why are we so drawn to cold climates?" After seeing flowers in full bloom and green grass and leaves on trees, we had a really hard time coming back to Edmonton. But, alas, a good day always has to come to an end. We had to make it back to Vancouver before the ferries quit running for the night. We did round out a great day with a couple beers on the patio looking over the harbor. It was a great day.

On Saturday, we woke up to rain (which we had been expecting according to the forecast). Quite honestly, Lee and I expected it to downpour the whole time we were there. We literally have never taken a vacation where it didn't rain the majority of the time. I don't know what kind of rain dance we perform on holidays, but it works. We spent an entire week in torrential downpours while camping in Yellowstone. Seriously, we would wake up with a moat of water around us...inside the tent. Our honeymoon resulted in a lot of rain, but we missed the bulk of two huge storms. It rained so much in New Zealand we spent an entire 24 hours in our tent at one point. We've become so accustomed to rain, it doesn't even affect us. We expect it. So, when it isn't raining hard or the sun is shining, we are happy campers! Either way, Bob and Jim had umbrellas so we set out on our way. Our itinerary for the day was going to depend on the rain.

We first headed to Granville Island to see the Granville Market. Wow!! It was a farmer's market on severe steroids. We were drooling uncontrollably. Again, Lee and I wondered what our attraction to cold climates was?? There was a huge variety of everything. The fresh cut flowers were gorgeous and CHEAP! OK, I need to explain something here. Yes, Vancouver is quite expensive, especially the US. However, most prices are pretty comparable to Edmonton except for one very important item. Food!! Yes, the food in Vancouver was so much cheaper. Lee and I were shocked at what we could have bought at the Granville Market. The cheaper prices are basically for one reason. The further north you go, the more expensive items like food and gas get. Edmonton is the northern-most North American city with a population over 1 million. We are actually pretty far north here. OK, moving on. :) The picture above is Cora and I standing next to a pastry counter. You could also buy beautiful artwork and handicrafts here. Lee and I decided if we ever lived close to a place like this, most of our shopping would be done here.

Oh, before I forget. The pictures I post from Saturday are from Lee's cell phone. We completely forgot our camera, so my pictures are really lacking. We'll be getting some copies from Bob and Jim sometime.

Who can spot the tourists?? Lee thought this was the coolest propeller. He is such a man. LOL.

OK, I can't give Lee much grief about the propeller because shortly thereafter we were in the most amazing textile shop. ;)

We stopped to eat at a seafood restaurant. We had to get this picture because Cora looked like she was straight off a fishing boat. Rubber boots, overalls, and a wide-brimmed hat. She just looks the part.

Cora loved touching the mussels. She wasn't too interested in starfish though.

She used clam shells to dig deep in the sand. She absolutely loved digging in the wet sand. Only one handful went into her mouth! I say that's a success. :)

The new rain boots were perfect. The first thing she did was walk straight into the water. No fear for this kid. She has a dive-in-head-first sort of attitude about life.

We finally were able to get her to pay a little bit of attention to a starfish. She really wasn't that interested. Maybe it was because Lee and I were flipping over rocks and dozens of crabs about the size of a quarter to half dollar would scurry about. She actually held a couple of crabs! Yes, they could have pinched her, but their claws were pretty small. We also found some eel-like creatures that were about 5-6 inches long. We were a bit more cautious with them because we had no idea what they were. Lee finally got the nerve to pick one up. Is anyone surprised? It didn't bite or anything, but it was squirmy!

On Friday it took a long time to get anywhere because Cora had to smell every flower. On Saturday, it took forever to get anywhere because she had to stomp in every puddle. Despite her rain gear, her pants were soaked. The smart Mom that I am neglected to pack extra clothes. Guess what though, water eventually dries. Even when the air is damp. Lucky for us, Cora couldn't give a crap whether she was wet or dry. She was too busy having fun.

So, the puddle picture marks the last picture that Lee and I took with his phone that day. However, our day was hardly over.  We headed to Stanley Park and then on up the hill to the Vancouver Aquarium. Cora was fast asleep for her afternoon nap by the time we made it to the aquarium. I was really hoping she would wake up before we made it through the whole aquarium, but I wasn't about to wake her up for it. The poor babe had been going nonstop and needed her sleep. She sleeps incredibly well tucked into my Ergo carrier on my back. We were only at the aquarium for about 20 minutes before she opened her eyes and looked around in amazement. "Yep, Cora. We are inside a giant fish tank!" We made our way outside to look at the beluga whales and then over to the river otters. As we were coming around the corner to see the sea lions and dolphins, the sea lion show was just about to start. Lee hoisted her onto his shoulders and then tucked himself back in a corner so others could. Most of the crowd was around the person the microphone while Lee perched himself on the other end of the exhibit. Turns out, he was in the perfect spot. The sea lions were research animals so the show was just talking about the recent massive decline of Stellar sea lions and how these Stellars were being used to study different aspects of the animals physiology and ecology. Well, the "show" took place right under Cora's nose. The sea lions were barking the whole time. I was a little bit worried Cora's eyes were going to pop out of her head. It was a great show. They did a really nice job to raise awareness about Stellar Sea Lions and explain the importance of the research as well as the importance for taking care of our Earth, especially the oceans. Thirty minutes later was the dolphin show, so we planted our butts on a bench and decided to wait. We got some ice cream cones to pass the time. The three dolphins were white-sided dolphins and had all been rescued from fishing nets off the coast of Japan. The dolphins are always on display. They knew their show was coming up and they were getting pretty excited and speeding all around their tank. Cora was on Grandpa Bob's shoulders watching the dolphins. We were by the ice cream stand and we could see her laughing and clapping. She was dancing to the music and watching the dolphins having such a great time. Once the show started, she had a hard time focusing on the actual dolphins because there were so many people there to grab her attention. The show was really great, and again, the aquarium did a really nice job raising awareness for marine mammals.

After the aquarium, we headed back to the hotel to relax and have some cheese and bread. It was getting pretty late, and the three of us were exhausted. Did you catch that? The three of us. That's right...just Cora, Lee and myself. Bob and Jim were rearing to go again! They had wanted to take us out for an anniversary dinner (our 4th Anniversary was on the Thursday before), and they weren't taking No for an answer. So, around 8:00pm, we set out again. They took us to an excellent tapas restaurant (I don't remember the name). The food was delicious. The place was super hip and the music was pumping. Would you believe me if I said that Cora slept through the whole dinner? I sure as heck wouldn't believe you. Honestly, I wouldn't believe you if you said I took her out to dinner that late. LOL. The bartender/waitress (yes, we even sat at the bar because the place was packed!) said to us, "Wow, either you guys have done this before or you have a whole lot of faith in that baby." Lee responded with, "No, we've never done this and I have absolutely no faith that this is going to work!" Guess who was wrong! Lee and I were stunned that Cora didn't even bat an eye to the booming base of the music or the loud chatter. Lee and I had first had a lamb tapas and then a duck tapas. They were wonderful. I especially loved the lamb. I think Lee preferred the duck. We chose to wash it down with a glass of cabernet sauvignon which really topped the meal off. Bob and Jim then treated us to a yummy desert and then we headed back to the hotel. I think Jim and Bob could have stayed out longer, but Lee and I were exhausted. It is amazing what a baby will do to parents. Never in a million years would I think that Bob could stay up longer than us. Again, I was proven quite wrong.

On Sunday morning, we had plans to meet up with Lee's and my friends, Erica and Jeff. Erica and Jeff moved to Vancouver 2 years ago from Edmonton. Erica is attending naturopathic school while Jeff is working on his MSc in psychology. Here is a shameless plug for Erica. Erica's Website Check out her website for more info on what she is studying. It is some pretty amazing stuff!

Erica and Jeff recommending we eat breakfast at Havana on Commercial Dr. They had a patio there and it was a beautiful day. So, we jumped on the train and headed on over. Cora was in the crankiest mood on Sunday. Totally out of character (I blame the night before...hahaha). She had gotten mad at Bob the night before because he scolded her and she held her grudge against him throughout that next morning! I couldn't believe. Don't get on this baby's bad side. Forgiveness is obviously not her strong suit. Eeeks!

Cora showing off her prettiest personality. She is really upset that Grandpa is even remotely close to her. He won her love back quite quickly, however. Despite her crankiness, she was a heck of trooper that whole weekend. We were constantly on the go. She was simply exhausted, but she held up really well.

Seeing Erica as soon as we got off the bus made my day. She looked wonderful! The last time I had seen her and Jeff was over a cup of coffee when Cora was only 5 months old. She is such a great friend of mine and I am truly glad I got to see her in Vancouver.

Erica and I having "boochies". They were espresso shots with a maple sugar and whipped cream. Yummy! I have to point this one thing out about Erica. I have always admired her ability to transform her clothing. The white cowl top she has on is merely a men's white undershirt worn upside down. She cut the neck out and sewed in a piece of elastic. Seriously, she is one of the most creative dressers I have ever met. Her clothing and music define who she is. I love that about her.

We were all quite happy the food came. Cora was getting really irritated by this point. In fact she had cracked her head so hard on the table that she had a giant goose egg. She shared Lee's and my breakfast. It is amazing what a bit of nutrition will do to life the spirits of a toddler. The food was great, but the company was better.

 The next stop for the day was the bike shop to rent some cruisers to ride around Stanley Park along the sea wall. How cute is Cora in her new bike helmet? The bike ride was scheduled perfect. We were able to get out and enjoy the day, while Cora was able to relax and have some quiet time in the bike trailer. The trailer was a Chariot which is exactly what Lee and I have. She knew the drill on how to get in. She loved the bike ride! I had never rode with the trailer before, so I was a bit nervous. Wow! I LOVE THE CHARIOT!! It was so light. I had no idea I was pulling anything. If anyone plans to do any strolling/biking/skiing with baby, GET THE CHARIOT. It is such a worthwhile investment!

Bob and Jim riding along.

Now, that's Hot.

Lee took nearly all the photos of us bike riding while riding his own bike. As I was flipping through the pictures, I kept noticing picture after picture of my back side. I looked at him and said, "What's up with all these pictures?" He just smiled and said, "I liked the view." What a nerd! I love the picture of me pulling Cora along, but we really didn't need 15 copies of it. LOL. I have decided one to post here is sufficient. You can all thank me later.

One rule as a tourist in Vancouver. You have to rent bikes and ride along the sea wall. It might as well be a law. There were people everywhere! Seriously, gobs and gobs of people. Sometimes it was a little scary trying to maneuver through people with a trailer. I did pretty good though.

We stopped along the beach to play for a while in the sand. Here is the whole clan. From left to right, Jeff, Erica, Sascha, Cora, Lee.

Cold sand on little toes is quite the sensation!

Our little Belle is quite the beauty. I just love these two pictures.

You can see from these pictures how her skirt got so dirty so quickly. She spent the rest of the afternoon in her onesie and leg warmers. She looked like she was straight of an 80's movie.

A great shot of the coast line taken by Lee.

Cora with her Daddy Dearest. I really love this photo.

Erica and me. Notice the starfish on the bottom of the rock!

Erica helping Cora dig deep into the sand. She was completely entranced while digging away.

My main squeeze and myself. This is such a great picture of us. :) :) :)

Bob, Cora and Lee before heading off to finish our bike ride.

Cora is ready to head back. She had a great time on the beach, but her toes were a bit chilled. We got her all warmed up and situated with some snacks to keep her happy until dinner.

This was the last picture we took on our camera during the trip. Sunday night ended with us saying goodbye to Jim who had to catch a plane that evening. We headed over to grab another beer on a patio and eat some nachos. Then we ate some sushi before calling it an early night. The next morning we were due to leave Vancouver. It had been a jam-packed weekend full of adventure, family, friends, and fun. Our plane left Monday morning (a little bit later than we had a planned considering we missed the one we were supposed to be on! Oops.) It was a great holiday that will forever be a great memory. Thank you, Bob and Jim, for letting us crash the party! We had a wonderful time.